MATTOON — Sierra Thompson is fascinated with the unusual.
“I think it’s weird why people don’t like them,” Thompson said. “I don’t know, I just find them so interesting because they’re not normal animals.”
Creepy, crawly, slimey or scaley, it doesn’t matter to Thompson. There’s something about animals that she can’t get enough of.
“There were times where I would play on my porch and pull garter snakes out of the yard and come play with them,” said Thompson. “I remember grabbing them with newspaper and letting them slither through. There were so many weird things I would do just because I thought they were so cool.”
The Mattoon senior has a particular interest in marine life. An avid fan of ‘Shark Week,’ Thompson has four turtles of her own. So when it came time to decide where she’ll play college basketball next season, Bowling Green’s marine biology program had a special allure.
“When I become a marine biologist, I want to specialize in sharks and coral reefs,” she said. “I particularly love sharks just because they’re so interesting. I just think the whole thing is so interesting because it’s not something we learn everyday.”
It doesn’t hurt that she’ll also be playing Division I basketball. Thompson averaged just over 16 points per game this season, leading the Green Wave to a 30-2 mark, a new school record for wins. Mattoon also won its first regional since 2004, reaching the sectional final before bowing out to Rochester. Thompson’s 1,268 career rebounds ranks her first in school history.
“She’s just an all-around outstanding player and person,” Mattoon head coach Amana Aydt said. “Her hard work and dedication is just second to none. She’s always giving 100-percent, even doing things outside of practice on her own.”
“I think what we did is absolutely amazing,” added Thompson. “I can’t, almost find exact words to put it in because what we were able to accomplish all together and just build for our program, was incredible.”
Now Thompson is on her way to building something with the Falcons in what she hopes to be her home away from home.
“My mom asked me, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?’ I was like, ‘Yes. When I’m here I feel like I belong. I feel like I’m at home.'”
At home, on the court and one day in the water as a marine biologist.
Sierra Thompson, the WCIA 3 Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.
WCIA 3 Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year:
2017: Sierra Thompson, Mattoon
2016: Tori McCoy, St. Thomas More
2015: Lexi Wallen, St. Thomas More
2014: Tori McCoy, St. Thomas More